Nidal Algafari: Syrian Community in Bulgaria Want to Join Voluntary Guard Teams
Nidal Algafari is a Bulgarian director, former executive director of the Bulgarian National Television and political PR of Arab descent. He is a NATFIZ graduate. His father is Syrian, and his mother is Bulgarian.
How do you view the idea for establishing guarding teams of volunteers in locations with Roma population or places, where Syrian refugees are accommodated?
As far as I know the idea is for those teams to be on the watch out and alert the police when there are problems. The Syrian community in Bulgaria is ready to provide cooperation. We suggest that those teams include our representatives, who may help as translators and also make sure that no people are assaulted or abused.
What will be the impact of the fence, which Bulgaria is set to build along the Turkish border?
It will just increase the fee that traffickers charge. The fence will be an obstacle for the refugees and their number will certainly decrease, especially now during the winter months, but once the harsh weather is gone, they will come back, but at a higher price.
Can Bulgaria rely on aid from the European Commission and other EU member states? In what way could they help?
Before hoping for help from abroad, we should know how to cope with the situation on our own. The European Union can provide us with financial aid and logistics, but first we should know what to do with it.
Isn't it too late for drawing up plans and concepts how to deal with the refugee crisis? The situation is already critical..
The situation is likely to further deteriorate within two or three months. Some 5000-6000 Syrian refugees have so far entered Bulgaria. Even if their number doubles, Bulgaria has the potential to cope with them. But Bulgaria can not accommodate more than 10 000 – 12 000 Syrian refugees. Anything exceeding this number will deal a very heavy blow. Syrian refugees are not as big a problem as the migrants coming from Afghanistan and Algeria.
Do you approve of the measures, which the state Refugee Agency and the Interior Ministry, are implementing?
Yes, but all of them are too slow, while some come too late to make a difference.
Do you share fears over the rising popularity of nationalist formations, which brands Bulgarians as a xenophobic society?
What we see is not the rising popularity of nationalist formations, but a handful of people, enjoying their five minutes of fame. This in no way means that our society is xenophobic. Bulgarians are good people and even now, when their own life is so difficult, they welcome the refugees and help them. The so-called nationalists are just pumping up muscles, but soon they will be gone.
How can authorities make sure that refugees with criminal records are kept away and do not cross Bulgaria's border?
This is mission impossible. There is no way for Bulgarian authorities to check the background of every single refugee heading for our border. What can be done is accommodate those people at special camps or centers and communicate with them, understand what their intentions and inclinations are.
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I would do the same if i were in their position. There are many parallels between the injustice, racism and scapegoating the refugees are going through and that of the Jews during the 1930s. The refugees have all the right in the world to set up self defense groups to counter the hostility and aggression they are experiencing from a large part of the Bulgarian public. We need a 21st century Dimitar Peshev in Bulgaria to right all the wrongs we're committing against these innocent victims.